The Revolutionary Guard of Iran Launched a spread of underground-based ballistic missiles this last Wednesday. The missiles were targeted at a mockup of an aircraft carrier anchored in the Strait of Hormuz. The simulated carrier strike has demonstrated Iran’s network of subterranean ballistic missile sites.
This latest Iranian State Television release has given us the first geographical glimpse of the locations of these previously hidden missile sites. According to some sources, the missile sites that were shown on State TV revealed that the launch sites were located somewhere in Iran’s Central desert plateau.
The Iranian Guard filmed this specific set of launches using a camera drone in which it showed two missiles launching from covered positions in the desert on the morning of 29 July. Unsurprisingly, the location of the launch sites nor the type of missiles fired were identified by State TV.
Previous State TV focused on the underground missile sites never gave even the slightest hint of where these underground launch sites might be, however, this new tactic appears to be a simple ploy to demonstrate the capabilities of Iran’s underground missile sites. Historically, these missile sites have been used as a deterrent against attacks since the Iran/Iraq War in the 1980s.
Missile Expert Melissa Hanham, who works as the deputy director of an Austrian-based group called the Open Nuclear Network has said:
“Once you find the silo, it’s really not a safe place to keep your missile anymore. What they’re trying to do is increase the survivability of their missile forces. They feel that their missile forces are exposed and that they could be taken out preemptively. By building this elaborate tunnel scheme, they’re trying to increase the survivability.”
According to new intel, it seems that this vast network of underground missile sites can presumably be launched remotely without a launch crew on site. However, it stands to reason that a launch crew would need to be located somewhere within the proximity of the launch site in order to maintain operational control of one or more of the sites.
Michael Elleman, Director of Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, has noted that despite the concealed nature of the launch sites that the United States most likely knows where a “vast majority” of the Iranian missile sites are located and that this intel makes them vulnerable to pre-launch strikes during a crisis.
This latest drill launched by Iran was called “Great Prophet 14.” The launch has been perceived as a message to the United States that Iran is capable of striking at US Aircraft Carriers. The semi-official news agency Tasnim reported that in addition to the missile strikes, armed drones also attacked the bridge of the mocked up Nimitz class carrier.
The ballistic missile launches on Wednesday put American troops at the Al-Dharfa Air Base in Abu Dhabi on alert. The Al-Udeid Airbase is the forward headquarters for the United States military’s Central Command in Qatar. During the alert phase, US troops took cover as a safety measure during the launches, despite both bases being several hundred miles away from where Iran placed the replica aircraft carrier.
The result of the strikes against the mock carrier are unconfirmed but a strike it appears at East one missile targeted the ‘carrier’s’ bridge while another may have holed the Hull on the port side. Will we see Iran’s faux Nimitz again?